Wednesday, September 27, 2023

This family is bringing Jamaica (or at least the food) to Williamsburg

CJ & J Island Cafe finds a second home in Williamsburg. (WYDaily/Courtesy Jay Jackson)
CJ & J Island Cafe finds a second home in Williamsburg. (WYDaily/Courtesy Jay Jackson)

Oxtails, jerk chicken, and CJ & J Island Cafe’s original dairy-free, “Rasta Pasta,” are making their way to Williamsburg this January.

Family-owned by husband and wife, Jay and Christina Jackson, and named for their three children, Claire, Jai’lyn, and Jadean, once it opens CJ & J Island Cafe will be the only “brick-and-mortar” restaurant in Williamsburg dedicated to Jamaican cuisine.

Both born in Jamaica, Christina moved to New York in 2002 while Jay was raised in New York. The pair lived there until Christina said she started contemplating their children’s future in the city.

“We were pretty much living in a box…I was pregnant with our second child and I was like ‘this cannot be life for us,'” she said. “We researched the best place to raise kids and Virginia was in the top four.”

Now Jackson said they’re building a legacy after they’d taken a “leap of faith” when they made their way to Hampton Roads four years ago with little-to-no cash to spare and moved in with a friend.

“My goal is to make sure I break all generational curses, that I take any risks I need to take so my kids have a different way of thinking and working for a better life…to make sure they grow up with something better,” she said.

After losing the CJ & J food truck to a fire in 2018, the couple wouldn’t stay down for long opening their first physical location in Hampton last August with the new location on Olde Towne Road to follow just a few months later.

The Jacksons bought a home and had settled in Williamsburg when they said they’d noticed traditional Jamaican foods and ingredients would regularly sell out at local grocery stores, signaling to them there was a demand to be met.

“The response we’ve been getting gives me chills,” she said. “People have said ‘you guys have been hearing our prayers.'”

James City County officials and the public are invited to get a “true taste of Jamaica” at the restaurant’s grand opening tentatively scheduled for Jan. 12 at 5242 Olde Towne Road, Jackson said.

To stay updated on the upcoming event or to learn more about CJ & J Island Cafe, click here. 

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